Idaho Energy Update
Feb. 8, 2006

Good news on the green building front in the Legislature! The House overwhelmingly approved a bill to require new state buildings exceed existing energy efficiency standards, while a Senate committee voted unanimously to introduce legislation to spur more energy efficient schools at the district level. Both measures enjoy bipartisan support and stand a good chance of passage this session.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Forest Service has approved an exploration project by a Canadian mining firm that wants to develop a uranium mine in the Yankee Fork region of the Challis National Forest. And the Idaho Public Utilities Commission wants your views on how to spend $10 million on pollution credit sales recently collected by Idaho Power.

See below for more information on these and other developments, and how to learn more about these important issues.

Thanks as always, and if you have any calendar items, please send them my way!


Ken Miller
Idaho Energy Advocate
NW Energy Coalition
(208) 890-3944
[email protected]

I: In the Legislature, House Approves Green Building Bill; Senate Panel Introduces Green Schools Bill

The House this week approved and sent to the Senate H422, which requires new state-funded buildings exceed the existing International Energy Conservation Code by 30 percent. The “Idaho Energy Efficient State Buildings Act,” includes provisions for the Permanent Building Fund Advisory Council to allow construction of some buildings that would be impractical to meet IECC standards to avoid the new requirements. Otherwise, all new buildings of 5,000 square feet or more or renovations projects of similarly sized buildings would be required to be 30 percent or better than IECC standards. This is something most states and hundreds of local jurisdictions across the country are already doing, and while it’s a small step it’s a symbolic one.

And earlier today, the Senate State Affairs Committee voted unanimously to introduce legislation sponsored by Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise, to encourage construction of more energy efficient school buildings across Idaho’s school districts. While the state can require its own buildings be built to certain efficiency standards, it cannot dictate to local school districts how they build their buildings. However, the state is now responsible for operation and maintenance costs of local school buildings, including their energy bills. The bill introduced by Sen. Werk, which was vetted by the interim Energy Committee last year and now enjoys strong bipartisan support, requires school districts to include “integrated design” and “fundamental commissioning” to ensure new buildings get the most energy for the buck. Since taxpayers pay the power bills, they’ll also benefit from having buildings that save energy over the long haul. The commissioning costs to ensure buildings are performing to standards will be paid by a .85 percent added to the project cost of the building and financed through the bond equalization fund – at no extra costs to school districts or taxpayers. It’s a win-win for Idaho students, for taxpayers, and the environment.

Each week, we’ll post thumbnail summaries on where the bills stand. Text of bills can be found by going to the Legislature’s main site at and clicking the “Legislation” link and then “Legislative Topic Index of Bills” and scrolling to the categories in which you’re interested in. Such as “Energy,” “Environment” or “Utilities.” You then click the link to the bill for more information. The Energy section currently looks like this:

Energy Efficient State Buildings Act . . . . . . . . . . . H0422
Energy facility siting, construction moratorium. . . . . .S1314
Major energy facilities, siting certificate. . . . . . . .S1293
Nuclear energy use, public advisory vote . . . . . . . . .S1289
Renewable energy resources, federal lands, funds . . . . . H0432

Here’s a look at the status of pending bills:
Energy Facility Siting (S1293):
Creates a state facility siting authority to review and approve or disapprove sites for large merchant generation facilities.
Status: Introduced in the Senate and referred to State Affairs; no hearing set.
Sponsor(s): Sens. Clint Stennett, David Langhorst, Elliot Werk, Mike Burkett, Kate Kelly, Diane Bilyeu, Dick Sagness.
Contact: 322-1351

Non-binding Vote on Nuclear Power Plants (S1289)
Amends Idaho Code Section 39-3027 (which prevents passage of state laws prohibiting nuclear power plants for generation without voter approval) by requiring a positive vote by Idahoans for nuclear power plants proposed in Idaho. The vote is advisory and not binding.
Status: Introduced in the Senate and referred to State Affairs; no hearing set.
Sponsor(s): Sen. Clint Stennett
Contact: 322-1351

Power Plant Moratorium (S1314)
Places a two-year two years to the soon-to-expire moratorium on permitting or construction of merchant thermal power plant – through April 2010.
Status: Introduced in the Senate and referred to State Affairs; no hearing set.
Sponsor(s): Sens. Clint Stennett, Kate Kelly, Elliot Werk, David Langhorst, Mike Burkett.
Contact: 332-1351

Green State Buildings (H422)
Requires new state-financed buildings and major renovations of existing buildings to meet or exceed national energy efficiency codes.
Status: Passed the House 55-11-4 on Feb. 7 and sent to the Senate.
Sponsor(s): Sen. Kate Kelly
Contact: 332-1315

Office of Energy Resources Funding (H432)
Allocates most of the state’s share ($2.3 million) of recent BLM geothermal lease sales to the new Office of Energy Resources.
Status: Introduced by the House Resources Committee and awaiting hearing.
Sponsor: Office of Energy Resources Administrator Paul Kjellander
Contact: 287-4903

Energy Efficient Idaho Schools (Bill number not yet assigned)
Requires school districts to integrate certain design and commissioning procedures for new school buildings to ensure they are more energy efficient.
Status: Introduced by the Senate State Affairs Committee
Sponsor(s): Sens. Elliot Werk (prime sponsor), Curt MacKenzie, Stan Bastian; Reps. George Eskridge, Sue Chew, Eric Anderson
Contact: 322-1000

II: Forest Service OK’s Preliminary Uranium Exploration Near Stanley

The U.S. Forest Service has granted “conditional” approval to Canada-based Magnum Minerals USA’s request to conduct exploratory drilling for uranium reserves in the Harden Creek drainage near Stanley and Sunbeam.

District Ranger Ralph Rau of the Salmon-Challis National Forest’s Challis-Yankee Fork Ranger District notified interested parties of his decision in a Jan. 28 letter.
“Conditions for my approval of the operating plan include the Magnum’s formal agreement to implement project design criteria developed through our environmental review process to protect surface resources and Forest Service receipt of a financial instrument insuring completion of required reclamation,” Rau wrote. He said that, because Magnum’s project was reduced in size from the original proposal and because it “complies with the Challis National Forest Plan” neither an environmental analysis nor an environmental impact statement on the project is required. He also said his decision is not subject to administrative review or appeal.

The agency said questions about the project should be directed to Piper Goessel at (208) 879-4158.

Idaho has no operating uranium mines, and the Snake River Alliance is among a number of public interest groups that question the wisdom of developing such a mine in Idaho – let alone near the headwaters of the Salmon River.

“At a minimum, this process demands an extensive environmental review and public input,” Alliance Executive Director Andrea Shipley said. “Should this exploratory work prompt Magnum Minerals to proceed with a request to develop a mine in Idaho, the company will have a long, uphill fight to convince Idahoans of the need. A uranium mine in the Yankee Fork area will pose a risk of release of uranium byproducts not only into the Salmon River but into Idaho’s environment, and that’s not acceptable to Idahoans.”

III: PUC Taking Written Comments on S02 Pollution Credit Sales Receipts
You’ll recall we’ve tried to keep you up to date in past Idaho Energy Updates on an important Idaho Power proceeding before the Public Utilities Commission. The case deals with how we should invest an estimated $10 million in proceeds from Idaho Power’s sales over the past year of surplus sulfur dioxide (SO2) pollution credits. The sales were made possible by improvements in coal-fired power plants in which Idaho Power is a part owner. The last time such proceeds became available, we and other advocates argued successfully that most of the proceeds should be returned in some fashion to ratepayers – and they were, through a “power cost adjustment” mechanism that helped reduce rates but only for one year. Idaho Power has since sold additional extra pollution credits, but this time it’s looking for other ideas on how to invest those proceeds. The Alliance and our partner, Bill Chisholm of the Idaho Energy Education Project, participated in a recent workshop and suggested the money should be invested in ways that have longer-term impacts for ratepayers, such as conservation and energy efficiency investments and energy education programs.
Now, the PUC has opened a comment period to seek input on those ideas, as well as any others you might have. Here’s a release from the PUC, with some background information and how you can submit your own comments. We encourage you to participate, and to be creative. Ideally, we’d like to see the money be used as “seed corn” to nurture further clean energy programs and initiatives. Comments are due Feb. 25!

Case No. IPC-E-07-18, Order No. 30495
February 5, 2008
Contact: Gene Fadness (208) 334-0339, 890-2712

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission is seeking public comment through Feb. 25 on how revenue from Idaho Power Company’s sale of sulfur dioxide emission allowances might best benefit customers.
Idaho Power sold 35,000 sulfur dioxide (SO2) emission allowances during 2007 for $19.6 million less brokerage fees. The share allocated to Idaho is about $10.1 million, after discounting income taxes and the share that goes to Idaho Power’s Oregon customers.

In 2006, about $69 million in SO2 sales proceeds was used to offset the company’s power purchase costs, with 90 percent of the proceeds going to customers and 10 percent to company shareholders.

That is one of the options again this year. If the proceeds were included in the company’s annual Power Cost Adjustment (PCA) process, SO2 revenues of $16 million, when adding tax benefits, could be applied against the company’s power supply expense, which now stands at about $90 million. By applying the revenue against the PCA amount, the size of the customer surcharge likely to be implemented in June would be reduced. This option is favored by commission staff, the Industrial Customers of Idaho Power and Micron.

A second option is to use the revenue to buy green tags from owners of small-wind projects or other renewable projects that have entered into sales contracts with the utility. If state or federal renewable portfolio standards (RPS) were enacted, which would require Idaho Power to acquire a certain percentage of its generation from renewable sources, the utility would likely have to buy green tags at prices expected to be higher than today’s prices. If Idaho Power were to buy green tags before an RPS mandate, the company could sell the green tags on a short-term basis and flow the proceeds to customers through the PCA.

A third option is to allow Idaho Power to enter negotiations or solicits bids to buy a wind project’s development rights. In essence, the company would be purchasing a wind project with capital – proceeds from the S02 sales – contributed by customers. This would result in a reduction in the company’s rate base. Wind developers favor this option and Idaho Power favors either this option or the second option.

A fourth option, favored by the Idaho Energy Project, proposes that about $500,000 could be used to develop classroom education programs about energy efficiency. The remaining balance would be directed toward other energy efficiency operations.

Idaho Power customers are invited to comment on any of these options or propose other possibilities.
An amendment to the 1990 Clean Air Act establishes a national program for reducing acid rain. Sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) are the primary causes of acid rain. In the United States, about two-thirds of all SO2 and one-fourth of all NOx comes from thermal (coal and natural gas) electric generating plants.

Under the federal program, thermal power plant owners are issued limited allowances for their plants’ sulfur dioxide emissions based on a specific plant’s past emissions and a nationwide cap placed on the total amount of SO2 that can be emitted. Each allowance authorizes the utility to emit one ton of SO2. At the end of each year, a utility generating unit must hold allowances equal to its allotted annual SO2 emissions. A utility that holds over its annual requirement is considered to have surplus allowances that can be sold on the open market or through auctions sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Idaho Power has an ownership interest in three coal-fired plants: Jim Bridger in Wyoming, North Valmy in Nevada and Boardman in Oregon.

Those wishing to submit comments must do so by no later than Feb. 25. Comments are accepted via e-mail by accessing the commission’s homepage at and clicking on “Comments & Questions.” Fill in the case number (IPC-E-07-18) and enter your comments. Comments can also be mailed to P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720-0074 or faxed to (208) 334-3762.

On the Agenda:

► The Boise Mayor’s Climate Advisory Committee will hold its every-other-Wednesday meeting at 7:30 a.m. in City Hall. Specifics probably won’t be available until the day before; if you’re interested in the agenda or need more information, shoot me an e-mail.

► The Idaho Public Utilities Commission holds its next decision meetings on Feb. 11, and 26. Agendas are normally posted the day before on the Commission’s website at
►The Northwest Energy Coalition’s IDAHO CAUCUS will be meeting in Boise at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 21. We will be sending out a notification and more information on Monday, but wanted you to put it on your calendars.